Just when I thought I knew what my life was, when I thought I knew everything there is to know about myself and the people around me, I went on exchange. My world was broadened in a way I couldn’t have expected. I didn’t meet a single person during my exchange year who didn’t contribute to my life in a meaningful way. Each one of them taught me a valuable lesson and I’m grateful beyond words to have them in my life.
The hardest part the last few weeks has been the lasts; the last bike ride, the last school day, the last hug, picture, or dinner together. Today is the last train ride. Trains have taken me from family to family, to reunite with old friends and explore new places. A small thing, but one of the things that’s most important. The train today is taking me to Frankfurt, back where my exchange began 10 months ago. The me that arrived with wide eyes in August, oohing and aahing at every little aspect of Germany feels, in a way, like a different person than the me I am now. I am now more confident, more capable, and more aware. I have done things that me then never would have seen coming. And above all, I am proud of myself. I am proud of the me I was then and the me I am now. I’m proud of her for leaving her family and starting this adventure. For packing her bags and stepping into the unknown. And I’m proud of me now for sticking through the tough times and learning from them. For thriving in a foreign country and having the adventure of a lifetime.
I’ve never felt the vastness of the world more than I do now. I’m not sure how I’m supposed to return to my American life knowing that there is so much out there to see and people I want to see it with. Knowing that there are people who have captured my heart 3,000 miles away from where I will be. I have found new depths of myself and my capabilities that I didn’t know existed. I have learned, grown, laughed, and cried. I now have a life in a once-foreign country, and leaving it isn’t going to be easy. But I haven’t said any goodbyes to anyone, because this won’t be the last we see of each other. Adjusting back to American life will be a challenge, but this time, I have a support system in two countries- both places where a piece of my heart will be forever.
Auf Wiedersehen, Deutschland. Bis zum nächsten Mal.